Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Treasurer Joe Hockey enjoy cigars outside Parliament House in Canberra.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Treasurer Joe Hockey enjoy cigars outside Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Nine News

A leading health expert has criticised Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann for being ‘‘role models who should know better’’, after the pair were seen smoking in public.

The president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, Mike Daube, said politicians had a responsibility to act as exemplars and Mr Hockey should "rethink his inappropriate public behaviour". 

On Friday, Channel Nine aired images of Mr Hockey and Mr Cormann lighting up cigars - widely considered symbols of power and success - only days before the government is expected to deliver a tough federal budget that could include cuts to welfare and a rise in the fuel excise.

This month it was reported that the two ministers smoke cigars together in a private courtyard at Parliament House immediately after question time on the days that Parliament sits.

Professor Daube said it was particularly ‘‘contradictory’’ for the Treasurer to be smoking in public only months after confirming a $5 billion tax rise on tobacco to be introduced over the next four years. 

‘‘Mr Hockey has done absolutely the right thing in raising the tobacco tax so it’s a shame he is spoiling that by inappropriate role modelling. He is happy to use the harms of smoking as a rationale for the tax so maybe he should gve a bit more thought to his own example.

‘‘What Mr Hockey does in his private is his own business, but he is a public figure and we don’t need treasurers promoting smoking,’’ Professor Daube said.